Saturday, December 27, 2014

North Irvington Garden District Roared With the 1920s

By the time this aerial photographer flew over northern Irvington in 1925, the neighborhood was already 55 years old. Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States and Butler University still operated in western Irvington.  The community was no longer a remote suburb.  The city of Indianapolis boomed throughout the early twentieth century and eventually caught up to the formerly independent town.  Street car lines traversed the formerly quiet enclave and nearly every lot in the original development had been built upon. However, north of Pleasant Run Parkway, speculators saw gold.  Vast open meadow and farmland still awaited and the need for land was great.

After World War I ended, developers began to clear and improve land east of Ritter Avenue, west of Arlington Avenue, south of Tenth Street, and north of Pleasant Run Parkway.  They put in the first streets by extending Campbell, Bolton, Graham, Audubon, and others.  They discarded the curvy streets popularized in the late nineteenth century in the southern part of the neighborhood for more conventional avenues on a grid.  They built modern houses complete with electricity, updated plumbing, and detached garages. Tudor and Dutch-Revival dwellings were the rage in the United States in the 1920s although many still preferred bungalows and American Four Square homes. Stucco became a popular building material.

Aerial photography became popular in the 1920s just as drone photography has become the rage in the 2010s. Three views of this large photograph reveals the first homes to be built in the North Irvington Garden District. You will be able to get your bearings once you understand that the large avenue cutting through the middle of the photograph is Pleasant Run Parkway. It dead ended into Arlington Avenue. (and still does) You will notice that the Pleasant Run Golf Course was not quite finished yet.  In the upper left corner of the photograph, you can see the Anderson Cemetery along East 10th Street.  Note that Warren Park had not been developed yet!  The streets visible in this part of the photograph include Arlington Avenue (note no houses--just small trees), Campbell Avenue, Bolton Avenue, and Graham Avenue.  The developer had extended both Campbell and Bolton up to East 10th Street, but only a small part of St. Clair Street had been completed.  On the far right of the photo, you can see the older and more established part of the neighborhood.  You will get a better view of that section in the other two views of this photograph.

North Irvington Garden District of Irvington in 1925
The other two views of the same photograph show a more western and southern view of the area.  The large manses are located along the 400 block of North Audubon Road and in the 5700 block of East Michigan Street.  You will note that there was a bridge over Pleasant Run at Bolton Avenue. You will also note that there were no houses yet on the north side of Michigan Street from Bolton to Arlington Avenue.  You will see far more trees in the more established part of the neighborhood, but today the Garden District lives up to its lush name.

Northern Irvington in 1925

Northern Irvington in 1925
So, who were these "pioneers" who moved into the North Irvington Garden District?  Most of them were young and rising in their careers.  As the economy boomed, so did the fortunes of younger Americans.  You could also now buy so many things on credit including stocks! (Cue the ominous music!) Some of these Irvingtonians had actually....divorced!  Many of them spent the rest of their lives in these homes while others, for many reasons, stayed only a few years.  Undoubtedly, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression ended the dreams of many.  However, others continued to build throughout the worst economic downturn in American history. Let's take a tour of the homes featured in the above photo.

Campbell Avenue--North Irvington Garden District in 1925
Harry and Ruth Wofle dwelled in this lovely Tudor-Revival home at 726 North Campbell Avenue with their son Harry.  Mr. Wolfe was a sales manager for a bed spring manufacturing company.  

Delbert and Helen Giffin, both in their thirties, lived in 733 North Campbell Avenue with their daughter Betty. They later moved to Kenmore Road.  Mr. Giffin served as a personnel director for the P.R. Mallory Company.

Leroy and Florence Langdon, both in their twenties, resided at 739 North Campbell Avenue in 1925.  Mr. Langdon ran a hardware store and a drug store located in the 3800 block of East Washington Street.  He was also a pharmacist.

This small bungalow at 762 North Campbell has been altered and enlarged over the years.  A young couple, Frank and Eleanor Benson dwelled here in 1925, but they were gone by 1926.  Mr. Benson was a sales manager for the Long-Bell Lumber Company.  

Bolton Avenue--North Irvington Garden District in 1925

Room to play:  Kenneth and Francis Badger were the first to dwell along Bolton Avenue in the Garden District. They lived in this stuccoed bungalow at 729 North Bolton with their two daughters, Barbara and Judith. The girls had plenty of open space to use as a playground in 1925.
Graham Avenue--North Irvington Garden District in 1925

Halford and Edna Howland dwelled in this stuccoed bungalow at 719 North Graham Avenue in 1925. They actually built the house in 1919 making it one of the oldest homes in the district.  In 1930, their home was valued at $8,500.  

Charles O Fouts, a salesman, lived in this Dutch Colonial Revival at 723 North Graham Avenue in 1925.  More research is needed on this family.
Stephen and Audrey Steinbuch, a young couple, resided in this house at 731 North Graham Avenue in 1925. They had four children.  Mr. Steinbuch earned a comfortable living as a draftsman.  

Charles and Hazel Flowers, both in their forties, lived in this stuccoed beauty at 734 North Graham Avenue. The couple had four children. Mr. Flowers sold life insurance.  

Harvey and Lena Carson, both quite young, dwelled in this Craftsman stunner at 747 North Graham Avenue.  The couple had two small children and Mr. Carson's mother, Bertha Carson, also resided in the house.  

The Long family resided at 757 North Graham Avenue in 1925.  They were gone by 1926.  More research is needed on this family.  
Pleasant Run Parkway--North Irvington Garden District in 1925

Jesse and Elizabeth Pritchett dwelled in this beautiful stuccoed home at 5744 Pleasant Run Parkway (formerly numbered at 5720) in 1925.  The Pritchetts had one son, Jesse, Jr.  Mr. Pritchett worked as a manager for the I.J. Cooper Company, but eventually the family moved away to another neighborhood to open a bowling alley.  

Shock!  Most locals would have dated this house at 5774 Pleasant Run Parkway (formerly numbered 5764) from the 1950s, but believe it or not, you can see it in the aerial photograph from 1925. This stunningly modern home for the time also has a complicated history that will eventually need to be sorted out. Paul and Ethel Klieber built the home. Mr. Klieber ran the Klieber-Dawson Machine Company at 1620 East New York Street. The Kliebers divorced in the 1920s and he remarried. Mrs. Klieber continued to dwell in the house, but she listed herself as a widow in the 1930 Census despite the fact that Mr. Klieber was very much alive. If only those walls could speak!  

Throughout the late 1920s, dreamers built dozens of other beautiful homes throughout the North Irvington Garden District.  The area would be fully developed within twenty years. Today the sycamores and maples planted by those early folks tower over the neighborhood.  Google satellite imagery reveals that it actually looks more like a forest today than it did in 1925 when the area was wide open and ready for development.

The historic image is courtesy of the Warrenburg family.  


  1. The Bolton Avenue bridge over Pleasant Run was usable into the 1960s. I drove over it daily on school days, picking up friends on the way to Howe High School, graduating in 1962. It was closed to automobile traffic and used for pedestrian traffic for some years before it was finally torn down.